How to switch from Karate to Kung Fu

How to learn Kung Fu starting from a Karate’s base

Even if Karate has originally born from Kung Fu, it has taken a totally different path (read What is the relation between Karate and Kung Fu?) and for a practitioner, the switch could easier for certain aspects, harder for certain others.

Note – This article has been asked by one of our Core Course practitioners on Patreon (see how to attend our home study classes here Learn Kung Fu online: a beginner-to-expert course).

Before getting to the heart of similarities, differences and difficulties, it is essential to make some premises:

  • Kung Fu is divided into many styles (internal, external, etc.), the people who will better benefit from the path we are going to describe are those who are moving toward a “soft” one, like Tai Chi (Taiji, read What is Tai Chi and what is its purpose?)
  • Even Karate has a lot of different expressions (Shotokan, etc.), some harder, some softer but in any case, the difference with Kung Fu’s approach remains
  • With a minimum of commitment and adequate openness to change, the transition is quite simple
  • Who has practiced Karate for less than 6 months do not need particular preparation (this tutorial is for those who have a deeper knowledge of this martial art)
  • Here we focus on Karate but similar reasoning can be valid for many other martial arts (Japanese and not only)
  • In this article we do not intend in any way to compare Kung Fu and Karate with the idea of establishing which is better, it is a vacuous speech that does not interest us

A note by Master Kongling – In the particular case of 6 Dragons Kung Fu, what the student has already learned in other (good quality) martial arts’ courses will not be replaced. Our system integrates both hard (solid), both soft (liquid / fluid) approaches (read for example 6DKF’s interactions: from the strong blow to the light touch). In our school, we merge what is similar but we do not overlap what is incompatible, we simply flank it; it is for this reason that the path we are going to describe is useful also for our new practitioners.

Karate VS Kung Fu: 2 different approaches

Karate’s approach

Even if it is not a fixed rule, Karate typically prefer to opt for:

  • Strong and segmented techniques execution (even due to the inevitable muscle memory’s conditioning forced by the Kata study)
  • Linear force application
  • Solid structures

Kung Fu’s approach

Even here, it is not a fixed rule but (the soft styles of) Kung Fu typically prefer to opt for:

  • Uninterrupted flow with variations in terms of speed / strength intensity
  • Circular force application
  • Relaxed structures

How to switch from hard to soft movements

Based on what we have said, the question arises more than spontaneously:

How can a karateka become capable of exploiting the immense power of softness (read How to combine softness and power) if his setting is rigid?

A simple transitional path

The mental and physical change:

  • Relaxation – We have to get used to feel and control the relaxation level of each of our body elements, one by one (shoulders, etc.); in this case, Qi Gong and / or Yoga practice can be extremely beneficial (read /// Subscribe (it's free!) or Login to see this content ///)
  • Combat flow – We have to imagine the combat flow as an endless sequence, even with violent variations but always without interruptions (let’s imagine pedaling on a bicycle, what would happen if we started pedaling in jerks?)
  • Limit stiffness – We always have to aim at relaxation, limiting the rigidity only to the smallest action moments (eg. the impact instant of a punch, read How to punch (simple explanation)); in 90% of the cases the rule is that we start soft, we become rigid for an instant and then we immediately return to be soft (even will controlling a fall, read Everything you should know about breakfalls)
  • Be patient – In the beginning, it is not easy to learn to release power through softness and the temptation to impress energy through rigid motions is high but we have to resist; once we will get used to Kung Fu’s flow, we will experiment with a totally new type of strength / speed and we will never want to come back (read Hitting with softness)

Some of the best practices of 6 Dragons Kung Fu to find softness

In conclusion, here we have a selection of exercises that facilitate theswitch from Karate to Kung Fu:

In-depth video courses

In-depth articles

Questions

Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • How long have you been practicing Karate?

Author: Master Kongling

Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

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